Thursday, August 05, 2010

Orthodoxy and Homosexuality, Part Two

The second installment of the "Steve the Builder" podcast on same sex attraction deals with listener objections, questions and comments concerning marriage, committed relationships, the impossibility of celibacy for some and how the Church's dogmatic and ascetical Tradition address human sexuality. Listen HERE


Melanie said...

I've been looking forward to this second installment, and what perfect timing with the news out of CA yesterday!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Easily one of the best, most pastoral, and complete presentations of sexuality in the Orthodox context I have read or heard. Well done.

Fr John Chagnon

Ruth said...

It is not good for man to be alone.

Let's leave the sex act itself right out of the equation. Given society in 2010 there are many people of any orientation who live alone. In a marriage where for maybe medical reasons sex is no longer possible, there is still love and care and loyalty and someone to come home to. This is good.

What do you think is the way that God has in mind for Western, lonely, people to live? Those who are not monks or married? Let us just limit these people to those who are willing to be celibate. We have in our group widows and widowers, those who have never married, some separated and divorced people, some people with SSA. Let's further reduce our group to Christians who moreover do not have extended family with whom they feel comfortable living.

We do not live in villages any more. Villages were good.

My personal experience of this was going overseas with a protestant missionary organisation at age 25. I met some very interesting single women in the process - the fun and fellowship of a roomful of woman missionaries with shared and rather bizarre experiences to laugh about, is an experience of community. I did not feel lonely. Everyone was celibate. It was not a big deal. We had other things to think about.
Then after 6 years I arrived back in my home country, and found that all my friends who had been single when I left were now married.
Anyone divorced is in something of the same situation. As a student and young teacher in my twenties I had flatted with others, and the others were likely to be flexible, generous and psychologically healthy people. In my thirties sharing a flat was fraught with angst and living alone was the healthier option.

So though I am married now and have been for more than 2 decades, I have some little understanding.

You've spoken well to the sexual side of SSA. What are your thoughts on loneliness? In general, not just as an adjunct of SSA but including that.

Fr. James Early said...

Very well done, Steve!

Chrys said...

Having little interest in the topic, I didn’t know what to expect. But I must agree with Fr. Chagnon: this was one of the most compelling presentations I have read or heard on sexuality in general. Indeed, it was more than that: it was a compelling presentation of how one must deal with any passion.

With clarity and nuance, it expressed the traditional understandings of the nature and challenge of the passions, the necessity, value and purpose of asceticism, and the vital importance of our true nature and glorious calling (i.e., Orthodox anthropology). More importantly, it connected them in a practical and insightful manner, showing how each is intertwined with, embedded in and dependent on the other.

There was also more than a bit of prophetic perspective in the way it contrasted the eternal truth of our calling in Christ with the all-too-pervasive distortions of modern culture. (This is often attempted, but rarely done well. Here, it was done very well.)

I thought the presentation was especially valuable in the way that it fills the gap between the purely practical pastoral advice that is typically offered and the primarily conceptual understandings offered in theological works. Yet, fully reflecting both, the glory of the Orthodox faith is especially evident in how it addresses, heals and transforms the human heart. In this way it avoids the delusional options, superficial solutions and attractive distractions, and sets us on the one path necessary to become who we were made to be. This allows it to fully recognize the depth and damage of sin without yielding to despair, while holding firm to our true nature in God. It insists that it is Christ Who defines us (not our sin or society), Who redeems us, Who descends into each one’s personal hell and conquers it. It glories in the love and sovereignty of Christ, while insisting that we must empty ourselves through the demanding compassion of sacramental asceticism in order that we might come to know the power of His resurrection and true Life.

This was an insightful, faithful and powerful presentation that showed, in effect, the process by which the Resurrection occurs “in the trenches.” Beautifully done!

s-p said...

Chyrs, So I assume you liked it? :) Thanks.

Ruth, you touched on a side issue that I've been thinking about too. Look for a podcast on the topic (I won't say "soon")... in Orthodox time. :)

Chrys said...

Yeah. (Of course, I never claimed to be subtle.)

I printed out transcripts of your recent podcasts and read them on a flight down to the Gulf. The one to your wife on Valentine's day was eloquent and profound. (It so perfectly captured my experience that I kept trying to think of some way to share it with my wife as an expression of my own feelings, but couldn't get past how cheesy it would be saying "Here, this goes for me, too.")

Likewise, your reflection entitled Ask Me About Jesus nearly moved me to tears. (I have a child who is disabled and could easily fit your description.) It struck me as exactly right and, in the process, it exposed the easy and superficial way I judge myself and others.

As for these two particular transcripts (Parts One and Two), they were just part of the stack. Beyond "how we are to address this issue," it isn't a topic that would normally get my attention. The usual response is either outright endorsement (a sure sign that one doesn't get the faith, but does get contemporary culture), or treatment of the problem as some kind of ultimately intractable sin - presumably because those who judge it so really doubt there is anything beyond it of greater and more enduring significance. Since the options of "not sin" or "sin beyond sin" offer no hope, I had thought that the Orthodox perspective might have something truer, deeper and more transformative to say. What I did not expect was an address that could apply equally to any besetting sin - including my own obstinate passions. Yet it did and in a way that offered genuine clarity and sound hope.
As a result, I spent three hours that night furiously scribbling reflections, self-challenges and other thoughts.
So - yeah, I thought it was brilliant.

Of course, if I had been more mature and considerate, I wouldn't have risked inflating your ego. But we must give thanks where they are due - and I am grateful for the chance to read your podcast transcripts.

Saul said...

Thank you very much for this, Bill.

I can't describe how important it is for those of us struggling with this issue to hear church teaching reinforced and in such a supportive manner.

In fact, I, for one, would be overjoyed to hear more, especially on the non-particularity of struggling with the passions (loneliness and depression are among passions). The struggle is universal. I cannot ask that others empathize particularly with me while I do not with them. That is not Christ's empathy, and I think you have put that very well.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Great podcasts. Fighting the secret sins that tempt by Confession and good advice is crucial!